We have a lot of pumpkins for fall decoration. We will bring some on the bus for those of you who come to the bus weekly. We also have a lot at our roadside stand. You are sure to find a size and shape that fits your tastes.
I'm not sure if I've told you our strawberry story so pardon me if you have already heard it. When we bought the farm we did not intend to grow strawberries. Organic strawberries are very difficult to grow and we decided the entire farm would be organic. Later we decided to call it Strawberry Hill Farm because it is on Strawberry Hill road. Nice name and fitting to the history of the farm but this has caused us one problem. People cannot accept the fact that we would not grow strawberries with a name like this! As a result, we are in our third attempt to grow organic strawberries successfully. This spring we had some great tasting berries, but the yield was so low that our costs where not covered. We have completely changed our system and today a couple of veteran Strawberry growers stopped in to pick up something. They never grew organic strawberries but we still asked them to look at our plants to see what they thought. They were amazed how good the plants are looking at this time. Their comment was "maybe it is possible to grow organic strawberries after all!" We won't know for sure until we harvest next spring but this is probably the most encouraging piece of Strawberry news to date.
We have also had a few adventures with our livestock over the last week. It was time for the bull to go home to the neighbour but he did not want to go! He has rarely been confined or tied so he can be quite a handful when he has a mind of his own with all 2,000 pounds. After a broken rope one day and about an hour of pulling and coaxing the next we managed to get him into a trailer and back home. Sure was good to have him back home for the year.
The eggs from pasture raised hens are far superior to indoor hens but we have had a few problems with wild life this year. We have seen a hawk come and get a couple hens and then last night something else appears to have gotten through the electric net and gotten a couple more. We will be setting up a game camera so we can see who the night time culprit is. There are many benefits to farming in the country, but as with anything, there are the negatives too.
Mice have been sampling our winter crop of kohlrabi. As is typical with mice, they just eat a little bit from each one then move on. If they ate one completely it would not be so bad. We are trying to figure out how to keep the mice out without poisons. Maybe a hot pepper spray will deter them but we would have to make sure it is rinsed off before we send them in the boxes!
Here is a picture of Stephen picking the salad mix for this week. The cold weather makes it milder than it was in the late spring. It can be used as a salad or it can be used as a brazing mix. I think you will find it has enough flavour not to need salad dressing but if you find a little spicy, then ranch or french salad dressing can help to tame it down.
Our winter box sign ups are now ready from the Sign up tab of our website.
The frost hit early this year and killed our cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, squash vines, ground cherries, and other frost sensitive crops. Sadly even supposedly hardy crops like peas got hit by the freeze. We intended to send snap peas again but the frost damaged them to the point they are no longer yummy. I think the reason they succumed was because the temperature was warm then dropped very suddenly below freezing so the plants had not grown used to the cooler temps.
The good news is that although we won't have as many tomatoes and cukes as normal, our winter storage veggies are looking good and the sweet potato crop looks good too. The broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage looks like it made it through the cold well.
We also have some great looking fall salad mix coming along as well as fall spinach and radishes.
The days are getting shorter and the weather is getting colder. Time to get out the warm underwear again! I remember when we grew a family garden and the first frost signalled the end of the season. Now with late plantings and cold hardy crops, frost is simply a transition from summer to fall crops. The broccoli and cauliflower pictured here are hardy down to around minus 10 C. We hope to start harvesting next week and should be able to harvest for at least a month and then store for a couple months after that point.
I'm appreciating the shorter days too because we have to stop sooner and can get a longer night's rest.
We are sending Acorn squash in the boxes this week. Here is a picture of a squash that was cut in half, baked and then the seed cavity filled with a rice and sausage filling.
Tonight Bruce asked Kirsten to make a soup with sweet green peppers. Here it is made with carrots and beef chunks cut up from a marinating steak. It was delicious!
The pigs are growing quickly. They love the shade of the trees and are doing a great job of clearing out the undergrowth so the trees can grow better.
The beef herd continues to do well. I like the Belted Galloway calves that were born this year. They are growing quickly and seem to have a calm nature. The calves born last year are pretty wild and get through the fences a lot. We have 8 calves born this spring and early summer and several of them have the distinctive white belt that you can see in the picture.
The time has come for school to start again so our summer students are now gone. The weather still feels like summer but the days are ending earlier now. We have about an hour less work time in the day.
Some of our crops are showing signs of not having had much rain for several weeks. The soil is drying out and plants are starting to show the affects of low soil moisture. For many crops this is not a problem, but for crops that still have growing to do the moisture will affect their size and growth.
I finished seeding most of our fall greens on the weekend. I'm hoping there is enough soil moisture to germinate the seeds or that we get some rain soon. We don't have the ability to irrigate in this field.
The corn season is pretty much over for us. We have one last planting that has a few good ears which we plan to have at our stand, but otherwise the corn is finished. We put the pigs into the patch to enjoy the unsaleable ears and to turn up the soil. The really like the nearby wooded area as well. Pigs are natural forest dwellers and it is rewarding to see them in a setting that is obviously something they like.
Bruce and Kirsten had fun on Monday and made a melon whale. They carved the whale and then made a fruit cup to go inside using melons and berries from our farm. We then took it to the grandparent's and all enjoyed a delicious snack!
Last week we had some pretty cool nights and it was starting to feel like fall but today summer is back with full heat! Other than slowing the ripening of tomatoes a bit, crops did not seem to mind the cooler weather. Winter Squash is ripening up well, pumpkins are turning orange, onions are getting ready to harvest, and the fall broccoli and cauliflower plants are thriving. The photo to the right shows sweet potatoes starting to gain size. I was a little concerned that the cool weather was going to slow them down, but the heat this week is just what they love.
We seeded another hay field last week and then finished making our last hay for the season this weekend. We have a good supply of great quality hay for the winter. It is a good feeling to have this done.
Here is a supper Kirsten made a couple nights ago. The green vegetable in the noodle dish is Romanesco Cauliflower and the orange is a new type of orange sweet peppers we grew this year. Of course the sausage is from our last year's pigs. We still have some sausage left that those who pick up from the bus can pre-order if they so wish. We also have it available at our roadside stand.
For those of you who follow our blog, I mentioned that we have been looking out for Monarch butterflies. The picture I posted a couple weeks ago turned out to be a Viceroy, but this past weekend I did see a real Monarch. I was not able to get too close but you can see by the lower wings that it is in fact a Monarch. I was some excited to find it and hope it lays lots of eggs!